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Building Bridges:
Preface


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The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on the twin pillars of shared values and mutual interests. Given this commonality of interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for Israel is one of the most pronounced and consistent foreign policy values of the American people. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) was created to reinforce our common beliefs.

Our first study, Partners for Change: How U.S.-Israel Cooperation Can Benefit America, documented the broad range of existing Shared Value Initiatives, including those related to education. AICE subsequently published a more detailed study — Learning Together: Israeli Innovations in Education that Could Benefit Americans — which describes more than 50 novel Israeli education programs. Now we look in still greater detail at programs specifically relating to promoting coexistence.

For Israelis, coexistence is not a luxury, it is a matter of survival. Even before the current peace process began, many programs were developed to try to improve relations between Arabs and Jews. Though some politicians in Israel are now urging a policy of separation between Palestinians and Israelis, the reality is the two people are fated to live together and, regardless of the outcome of negotiations, a substantial Arab minority will remain citizens in Israel. Consequently, the efforts to promote coexistence will continue. While the Israeli programs have by no means eliminated prejudice, they have helped thousands of Jews and Arabs learn to communicate, cooperate and work together with understanding and mutual respect.

Conflict is not unique to Jews and Arabs. Unfortunately, tensions between other groups exist in Israel, such as between secular and religious Jews. Unique programs have also been developed to combat these other forms of intolerance.

In many ways, Israel epitomizes the reality of the conflicts between majority and minority populations all over the world. And the experience of coexistence efforts in Israel demonstrates dramatically that methods do exist and actions can be taken to defuse tensions, encourage cooperation and promote harmony. More generally, coexistence activities encourage the practice of democracy.

Americans can learn valuable lessons from Israel’s unique effort to combat prejudice and promote greater cooperation between people of different races, religions and nationalities. A first step is to identify those Israeli programs that are most innovative and applicable to problems in the United States. We have done this in the following study. It is our hope that elected officials, educators and others interested in promoting greater coexistence in the United States will use this book as an introduction to Israeli methodologies and then contact AICE for more information and consider working with us to adapt those ideas or projects that have the most relevance.

 

Eli E. Hertz Claire G. Mazer
Chairman President

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